Yesterday was Father’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to talk about optimum nutrition for men’s health. Unfortunately, men tend to draw the short straw in the health stakes from mid-life onwards, with a shorter life expectancy than women and an increased risk of heart attack and strokes.
Testosterone levels decline naturally as men age, and with this comes an increased risk of prostate problems, mood fluctuation and sleep disturbance as well as a reduction in muscle mass and libido.
Making a few changes to the food on your plate could make all the difference to your health and how you feel and function every day. Here are 6 foods you should eat to help support your health into middle age and beyond.
What should men be eating?
- More fibre. Most men eat around 20g of fibre a day, compared to the recommended 30g. Increasing your fibre intake can help support digestive health and prevent constipation, but it could also benefit your long-term health too. A higher fibre diet has been associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Make the switch to wholegrain cereals, bread, pasta and rice instead of white, add some pulses to your diet (houmous as a snack, chickpeas in curry, lentil soups, or baked beans a few times a week will make a significant difference to your fibre intake). Here’s what 30g fibre looks like in a day’s diet:
- Bowl of porridge with 1 banana + 1 tablespoonful flaxseeds = 8.8g fibre
- Baked potato with tuna, sweetcorn and salad = 11.4g fibre
- Chilli con carne with brown rice = 8g fibre
- 1 medium apple = 4.4g fibre
- More oily fish. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and trout help support cardiovascular health, male fertility and brain health. It is recommended that men eat at least one portion of oily fish a week. A portion is 140g when cooked. Oily fish include salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and herring. Fresh, frozen or canned are all good.
- More vegetables. It is estimated that just one in 5 men reach their daily 5 a day target. Apart from providing essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, vegetables and fruit form the foundation of a healthy diet, and five portions a day is the minimum recommended for good health. If you struggle to eat 5 a day, start with an achievable target of increasing your intake by just one a day. Add berries to breakfast, have a handful of cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks with your usual lunchtime sandwich, and add some frozen vegetables to your curry or chilli recipe at dinnertime.
- Eat foods to support prostate health. Vitamin C, zinc, omega 3 fats and antioxidants like lutein have been shown to help support the prostate, and it seems a plant-based diet has benefits too. Blueberries, tomatoes (especially tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, or cooked tomatoes), nuts and seeds (walnuts and pumpkin seeds), cherries and spinach all have benefits.
- Pass the salt. Generally, men tend to have higher blood pressure than women, and one of the contributing factors could be salt intake. Use herbs and spices instead, swap to low salt soy sauce and use a little sea salt sparingly. Avoiding processed foods, and cutting back on bacon, sausages and ham will make a difference too.
- Keep an eye on the bottle. It is now recommended that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol and have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.
- 6 pints beer (based on average 4% beer)
- 6 glasses of wine (based on 175ml of 13% wine)
- 6 double shots (based on 25ml of 40% spirit)
This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 15 June 2019.